Blatt played point guard at Princeton University from 1977 to 1981 and played in the Maccabiah Games for the USA national team that won a gold medal in 1981. He then played professional basketball in Israel for nine of the next twelve years, before an injury ended his playing career, and he began coaching full-time.
He is one of the most successful American coaches in European basketball history. As a coach, Blatt has been the Israeli Super League Coach of the Year four times (1996, 2002, 2011, and 2014), the Russian Super League Coach of the Year (2005), and the EuroLeague Coach of the Year (2014). Blatt took over as Cleveland's head coach, and led the team to the 2015 NBA Finals in his first season. He guided them to the top of their conference the next year, but was fired mid-season, and subsequently returned to coaching in Europe.
David Blatt grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts, and is Jewish. As a boy, he went to a Reform Temple, and until his Bar Mitzvah he attended Hebrew school twice a week. He says that in Israel he became "much more Jewish and much more Zionist."
In his sophomore year at Princeton, a coach for an Israeli kibbutz team recruited him to play in Israel for the summer. The summer at Kibbutz Gan Shmuel turned out to be a life-changing experience. Blatt graduated from Princeton in 1981 with a B.A. in English literature, completing his senior thesis on Bernard Malamud, author of The Natural.
In 1981 he immigrated to Israel, and served in the Israel Defense Forces on the Schneller military base. In 1991 Blatt married Kinneret, from Netanya, Israel; she had played on an Israeli professional basketball team that he coached. They have four children: twin daughters Shani and Adi (who have served in the Israeli army), daughter Ela (his youngest child), and son Tamir Blatt (born in 1997; in 2014 he was the starting point guard on the Israeli junior national basketball team, and had signed to play for four years with Hapoel Tel Aviv).
He played high school basketball at Framingham South High School, where he was also high school class president.
Blatt, a point guard, played college basketball at Princeton University from 1977 to 1981 under coach Pete Carril with the Princeton Tigers, for whom he was team captain. He also participated in the Maccabiah Games as part of the USA national team that won a gold medal in 1981. After competing in the Maccabiah, Blatt began to play professional basketball in Israel's Super League, and played 9 of the next 12 years in Israel before an injury ended his playing career and he started his coaching career full-time.
After retiring from basketball as a player, Blatt became assistant manager for Hapoel Galil Elyon, coaching them for the 1993–94 season. In the middle of the season, the head coach was fired and Blatt took his place. The following year, he became Pini Gershon's assistant for the 1994–95 season. The next year, he won the title of Israeli "Coach of the Year" for 1996. In 1997, he continued coaching Hapoel Galil Elyon, while also becoming the assistant coach of the Israeli National Team. For six years, he coached Russian national basketball team, winning the EuroBasket 2007.
Blatt returned to coach Galil Elyon, and remained assistant manager of the Israeli National Team for the next two years (1997–99).
For the 1999–2000 season, he moved to Maccabi Tel Aviv, and once again served as assistant manager to Pini Gershon. During that season, his team took part in the Israeli League and Israeli Cup (winning both), and also in the EuroLeague, where Maccabi finished in 2nd place.
In the years between 2000–04, he continued as assistant coach under Pini Gershon and actively recruited foreign players such as Anthony Parker (in 2000) and Maceo Baston to the team. During those four years, Maccabi won one EuroLeague title, reached the EuroLeague Final Four (2001–02 season), and reached the final stage of the Adriatic League. Maccabi won the SuproLeague title in 2001 in Paris. Blatt was still working as assistant coach of the Israeli National Team in 2002, when he won the title of Israeli "Coach of the Year" for the second time, the year he was appointed head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Despite two years as head coach with all possible domestic titles and one EuroLeague Final Four appearance, for the 2003–04 season, he agreed to be demoted to assistant coach once again when Pini Gershon came back to the head coach position. Together they led one of the best teams in Maccabi Tel Aviv history, and the history of European basketball, to another EuroLeague title with a 44-point win in the final, as well as to the Israeli Championship and the Israeli Cup.
In 2004, he moved to Russia and signed on as head coach with Dynamo Saint Petersburg. During that year, he won the FIBA EuroCup championship with Dynamo and also the title of "Coach of the Year in Russia" (2004–05 season).
For the 2005–06 season, he signed on as head coach of the Israeli national basketball team, but his appointment fell through due to the lack of a formal coaching certificate. He left Israel to become head coach of Benetton Treviso of the Italian League, and subsequently led them to the Italian Championship with a 3–1 victory in the final series of the Italian playoffs. In the same year, he was also appointed the head coach of the Russian national basketball team.
At the beginning of the 2007–08 season, Blatt was appointed as a head coach of the Istanbul-based Turkish Super League team Efes Pilsen. However, on April 6, 2008, he parted ways with the team, due to poor results over the season. Blatt also coached the Russian national basketball team, with which he won the EuroBasket 2007 in a final game against the reigning world champions and home team of Spain, by a score of 60–59.
In 2008, with Ettore Messina announcing that he would leave CSKA Moscow, Blatt was considered to be the favorite to replace him, but Messina eventually stayed on as CSKA's coach and Blatt agreed to the offer to become the head coach of Dynamo Moscow instead. Although under contract for two seasons, he parted ways with the team, after requesting that from the team in order to pursue his career elsewhere. In early 2010, Blatt served a stint as the head coach of the Greek League club Aris Thessaloniki, before moving on to coach Maccabi Tel Aviv once again. Blatt led the Russian national team to a bronze medal during the 2012 London Olympics.
In 2014, Blatt led Maccabi Tel Aviv to one of the greatest comebacks against CSKA Moscow in the EuroLeague semifinal game, proceeding to win the championship after beating Real Madrid in overtime. In June, after his contract ended, Blatt officially parted ways with the club in order to seek an NBA coaching position. Over six seasons as Maccabi head coach, he compiled a 179–21 (.895) record in the Israeli League, and a record of 90–52 (.634) in the EuroLeague, for an overall record of 269–73 combined (.787). In 9 seasons, his career coaching record in the EuroLeague with Maccabi, Treviso, and Efes was 121–81 (.599).
On June 20, 2014, Blatt was hired to be the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Following his signing with the Cavaliers, Blatt was named the EuroLeague Coach of the Year.
On April 1, 2015, Blatt earned his first Eastern Conference Coach of the Month award. The Cavaliers led the Eastern Conference in March in points-per-game (107.0), points-per-game differential (9.1), field goal percentage (.469), three-point field goal percentage (.399) and three-pointers made per game (12.3). The Cavaliers were also a perfect 5–0 at home and were tied for the most road wins in the East at 6–4. The month also saw the Cavaliers extend their winning streak at Quicken Loans Arena to 16 games (Jan 19 – March 29), which tied for the third-longest home streak in franchise history. Over the season, the Cavaliers lead the Central Division with a 53–29 mark, and Blatt's lifetime .639 winning percentage after the 2014–15 season was the best of any Cavaliers coach in team history.
During the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Blatt attempted to call a timeout although the Cavs didn't have any left. This would have given the Cavaliers a technical foul and would've most likely led to the Chicago Bulls to win the game and lead the series 3–1. The referees did not see the attempted timeout, and the Cavaliers won the game, tying the series 2–2, and eventually, winning the series. In Blatt's first season, the Cavaliers won the Eastern Conference title, their first since 2007. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Blatt to congratulate him for bringing the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. While there have been other rookie head coaches who have reached the NBA Finals in the past, Blatt and rival coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors were the first pair of rookie NBA coaches to face each other in the NBA Finals since the first year of the NBA's existence, in 1947. The Cavaliers eventually lost 4–2 to the Warriors in the Finals.
On January 22, 2016, Blatt was fired by the Cavaliers. Although the team held the best record in their conference (30–11), general manager David Griffin cited "a lack of fit with our personnel and our vision" as the reason for Blatt's firing. Blatt was replaced by his lead assistant Tyronn Lue, who went on to guide the Cavaliers to the franchise's first NBA championship that same season.
On June 1, 2016, Blatt was named as the new head coach for Darüşşafaka of the Turkish Super League and the EuroLeague.
Note: The EuroLeague is not the only competition in which the team played during the season. He also coached in domestic competition, and regional competition if applicable.2007 EuroBasket: Gold
2012 Olympics: Bronze
2014 EuroLeague Champion
2014 EuroLeague Coach of the Year
2014 Order of Friendship Award winner
2015 NBA Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for March
2015 NBA Eastern Conference Central Division Champion
2015 NBA Eastern Conference Champion
2015 NBA Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for October/November